Melissa Biggs Bradley’s life has long been shaped by travel. Daughter of an Australian mother and an American father who met in England, Bradley went on her first safari at the age of 12. Discovering other cultures and distant places around the world has remained a defining feature of his life ever since.

“It’s interesting, in many ways this safari has had an incredible impact in terms of opening my eyes to different ways of living in the world,” said Bradley, who also has deep roots in the East. End. She first came here as a child with her parents in the 1980s, and since the early 2000s she and her husband Michael have owned a home in Southampton. “Even now, with the problems that exist today, if one wants to be a responsible traveler, it is important to be aware of the inequity and the responsibility of being a citizen of the world.”

It’s a priority for Bradley, who was long-time travel editor at Town & Country magazine and, at 27, started spin-off publication Town & Country Travel. Today, Bradley is the founder and CEO of Indagare, a travel agency founded in 2007 that specializes in organizing memorable trips for members around the world. Bradley’s goal, both personally and professionally, is to inspire and empower people to change their lives through adventure, with the belief that once travelers are truly engaged and invested in a region, they in turn become good stewards of the planet because of their experiences.

“Africa has been a place that has really meant to me for a long time. I’ve been on dozens of safaris,” said Bradley, who also serves on the board of the Center for Responsible Travel, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group dedicated to increasing the positive impact responsible tourism. “From a global perspective, the biggest problem for the center before the pandemic was overtourism. It was the greatest threat to culture, community and environment. But in all my travels, the place where I saw the greatest example of tourism positively influencing while supporting and protecting heritage and community was in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In particular, it’s places like Tengile River Lodge in South Africa, Singita Mara River Camp in Tanzania and Bisate Lodge in Rwanda that Bradley has found both inspiring and enduring.

“These lodges give back to their community, are environmentally conscious and committed to cultural preservation. If you don’t have wild animals, a natural environment and people living in harmony with animals, you don’t have a business,” she explained. “They have done amazing things, pushing environmental design and leading the way in showing what responsible ecotourism can be in its highest form.”

When it comes to tourism, Bradley stresses that it is essential that community members are included as stakeholders, with a vested interest in both the land and its resources.

“If the community isn’t involved, it won’t work. It has to involve the whole community,” she added. “Health care must be taken care of, livelihoods and education provided. The pandemic has been tough in many places in Africa where there were no subsidies. Young girls dropped out of school to help on the farms or married for dowries. There was a lack of work and problems of hunger and real poverty. We have a responsibility to travel safely. It is a lifeline for these countries.

In 2021, Bradley published ‘Safari Style: Exceptional Camps and Lodges’, a book offering a photographic exploration of Africa’s leading eco-safari lodges that do just that – providing memorable guest experiences while preserving the ecosystem and nature. surrounding culture. The book documents a wide range of safari accommodation across East and Southern Africa, from classic, basic lodges and inspired eco-camps to indulgent luxury resorts.

“These are the best lodges in Africa, and if you go there you have a positive impact,” Bradley said.

On Thursday, July 14, Bradley will be the guest speaker at the Southampton Hospital Foundation’s Second Annual Lecture and Fundraising Luncheon at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton. The event is a benefit to support the new Stony Brook Medicine (SBM) East Hampton emergency department, which is scheduled to open in late 2023.

Bradley, who will share his perspective on the importance of sustainable tourism, notes that although the travel industry has been hit hard in 2020 due to the pandemic, in many ways COVID-19 has given the industry a chance to reset with the realization that responsible travel is now more important than ever.

“It turns out people are now much more aware of what I’m talking about,” Bradley said. “They saw the interconnectedness and realized we needed to have a more sustainable connection. If we don’t have tourism, restaurants close, stores close and what makes the local environment unique is at risk. We need support for tourists. Ten percent of the world’s population works in the hospitality industry. It’s one of the biggest employers in communities, so it’s important to support them and we need to do it responsibly. .

Part of that responsibility, she notes, involves travel choices — opting for more meaningful and immersive journeys. She adds that the pandemic has made people more mindful of where and how they travel.

“In terms of carbon footprint, what impact will my dollars have and what experience will stay with me forever?” she asks. “Better than quick visits to destinations that all look the same because they have the same brands of restaurants and stores, maybe we can be more immersive in how we travel.”

Bradley describes herself as a relentless optimist and notes that despite the devastation of some ecological and humanitarian situations in Africa in the past, trends can often be reversed with attention, care and support. She points to an area in the northern Serengeti that had been a hunting ground, but was leased by the Tanzanian government to philanthropist Paul Tudor Jones, who turned it into a huge reserve with a collection of camps and a partnership community which included hiring ex-poachers as anti-poacher patrols.

“Wildlife came back once poaching was brought under control,” Bradley said. “It was amazing.”

During her talk at the Maidstone Club, Bradley will share her thoughts on what these lodges mean to the communities in which they are located and why she believes an African safari is one of the most incredible experiences a traveler can. live.

“One of the reasons is that the oldest man is from this area,” she said. “Genetically, people are aware of it. It’s like déjà vu, like a deep racial memory at the cellular level. You are aware of a familiarity.

“The other thing that happens is you’re tapping into the natural world that we don’t normally exist in,” Bradley added. “You spend your days looking for animals, on foot or in a vehicle. Animals hunt at dawn or dusk, you’re up at sunrise, with guides trained to read the signs. It is the lost language of the world. You can read plants, droppings, footprints, tap into the natural world in ways that have been suppressed.

“You can spend time sleeping under an actual canvas, hearing animal sounds at night, birds in the morning, returning to the rhythms of nature – not hunting – but returning to the rhythms of how, as As primitive and evolutionary man through most of history, we’ve lived,” she said. “It’s only recently that we’ve been disconnected from nature.

“You are also stripped of the normal distractions of civilization. You’re not on the phone all the time or plugged into what’s going on,” Bradley said. “You have to be in the moment and observe the animals. If you spot the leopard or see cubs, you need to be fully observant. It allows people to connect and be aware in a deep way.

Whether it’s dipping a toe into the safari lifestyle by staying at a luxurious lodge where fine dining is part of the experience, or really getting off the grid by flying to a remote area for a more rugged adventure , Bradley truly believes that a trip to Africa can be transformative.

“I think it’s a special experience to live on this planet and to have a connection with nature in a deeply primitive way,” she said. “It changes lives”

The second annual Southampton Hospital Foundation Conference and Fundraiser at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton with guest speaker Melissa Biggs Bradley will take place on Thursday, July 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event supports Stony Brook Medicine’s (SBM) new emergency department in East Hampton. . Tickets start at $500. To purchase, email [email protected] or call 631-726-8700, ext. 3.


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